On Alito, Willis, Meatloaf, Bolton, fitness, battleships, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jan 05, 2006 9:05 AM

Capping the departed year on a variety of issues and heading into the new. . .

Confirmation hearings on Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court are set to begin Monday. Will he make it? The general sense is yes. But the extremist sense is: He shouldn't. Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean wants a filibuster ("absolutely") of anyone he and his comrades find ideologically unacceptable. The biggest fight since those over Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas may be on the way.

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Tennessee now is operating under a law requiring first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence to spend 24 hours of roadside clean-up wearing orange vests proclaiming, "I am a drunk driver." Caterwauling complaints already are coming in.

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The first national assessment of cardiovascular fitness has found one-third of teenagers failing to make the cut. That's one-third - grimmer than public health authorities had feared. Notes James Hill of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver: "This really points out that the low level of physical activity in our population is leading to a lot of kids and adults having low fitness levels, and those low fitness levels are related to a lot of bad outcomes. We haven't been able to communicate to the public what a crisis this is. It's scary. Maybe this will be a wake-up call."

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Kerryists and others spent a lot of time demanding John Bolton explain himself more thoroughly before they would support his nomination to be ambassador to the U.N. Finally, given the opposition, President Bush gave Bolton a recess appointment. Now he is making a lot of sense - not least in demanding UN Secretary General Kofi Annan explain himself to an extent the Kerryists would not.

In fact, Bolton is working to restructure the U.N. by, for example, moving it away from scandalous operations such as the oil-for-food scam in pre-war Iraq and the sex-slave industry run by U.N. peacekeepers in Africa. According to Reuters, he is demanding that the U.N. General Assembly approve "a new human rights body, new international accounting standards, a review of programs older than five years, and a stronger internal watchdog office." Oh, the multitudinous ways in which Bolton offends.

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It looks like the end of the cruise for U.S. battleships. Just two remain - Iowa and Wisconsin - both about 60, both decomissioned and reactivated as naval needs changed. Now they'll probably sail into the sunset to become museums - Iowa to Stockton, Calif.; Wisconsin (the last to fire its guns in support of U.S. troops ashore, in 1991) to Norfolk, Va.

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How outrageous are the recent denials that the Holocaust ever happened - by the leader of an Egyptian Muslim group and by the new president of Iran? Even the Saudis disagree. Saudi Arabia's new ambassador to the U.S. - Prince Turki al-Faisal - terms the Holocaust, wherein the Nazis killed 6 million Jews, "horrific genocide" and a "historical fact."

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On the haute cuisine front, let's see: Meatloaf, which began as a home-cooking staple during the Depression, is moving up - from the diner to the bistro to the snitziest high-end restaurant.

But the food on Air Force Two reputedly is so bad it is driving down at least some of the gourmet reporters who accompany Vice President Dick Cheney. Said Reuters' Saul Hudson, "aghast" about the food on a flight to Asia: "I'm British - I'm used to eating inedible food." Said the AP's Anne Gearan: "The flan put to rest my theory that at least you could count on a decent dessert."

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Bruce Willis often dissents from Hollywood's ideological line. He has offered $1 million for the capture of any of al-Qaida's big three - bin Laden, Zawahiri or Zarqawi. And now he will make a movie depicting American troops in Iraq, with whom he recently spent some time, as "guys who do what they are asked to for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom." He adds: "I am baffled to understand why the things I saw happening in Iraq are not being reported." How about an Oscar for Willis - for courageous deviationism, if nothing else?

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is working on another book, this one inspired by Saddam Hussein. As she told Aspen magazine: "I love jewelry, and (the book) is going to be on my collection of brooches. I thought it would be fun to write about why I wore them. The attention to my pin collection started when Saddam Hussein called me a snake. . . . (Soon after telling that story on CNN as I wore my snake pin brooch), it seemed like the whole world watched what brooches I would wear as some kind of signal - a sort of international reading of the tea leaves."